Roma have mixed success in copying Barcelona

It was Juventus legend and current Uefa president Michel Platini who said the current Barcelona side cannot be copied. “It’s too difficult,” claims Platini.
That claim has not stopped those in Italy labelling Luis Enrique’s Roma side ‘BarcaRoma’, a term seen a lot in the media during pre-season. Obviously, to copy Barcelona is going to be very difficult – if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. It was clear however Enrique would be bringing with him some of Barcelona’s key characteristics, mainly what the Spanish call ‘tiki-taka’, the constant passing game adopted by both Spain and Barcelona that aims to tire the opposition while seeking an opportunity for the killer pass.
Judging by early form recreating this style of play at Roma has been hard for Enrique’s team, but Sunday night’s fixture at Parma brought Roma their first win. Although, while many have talked about their preference for a Barcelona style 4-3-3 formation it could be argued it is in fact something totally different.
Francesco Totti’s role in the team has been a hot topic of conversation for many pundits and Roma fans alike. Er Pupone’s natural game does fit the system the Coach is trying to achieve as he is adept at dropping deep from his centre forward position to link with the midfield and supply through balls to the wingers. However on Sunday night and especially in the second half, it looked more like 1-2 upfront – such was the extent Totti dropped deep. It seemed a surprising move on the Coach’s part, given the fact we are now four years on from when the playmaker said he “no longer has the legs anymore,” to play so deep.
It will be interesting to see over the coming weeks and months how the captain’s role develops, especially with the Coach’s comments after Sunday’s game: “He [Totti] has all the freedom to play all along the forward line.” If this is so then it remains to be seen whether Enrique will give the ex-Italian international the freedom which would possibly mean sacrificing another forward when the Giallorossi play better sides.
Another note of tactical interest has been the use of vice-captain Daniele De Rossi. Used at the base of the midfield, it has been noticeable how often it is his job to drop deep between the central defenders, pick up the ball and start attacks, while also giving cover to create a back three when the full backs move forward. One noticeable move Roma tried a few times on Sunday was the long diagonal from De Rossi to left-back Jose Angel high up the wing.
With De Rossi’s positional play in mind, it again does challenge the idea Roma are playing 4-3-3. With the defensive midfielder so deep and the fullbacks pushed on and Totti dropping deep at the same time, it does often look like the Giallorossi are playing a 3-4-1-2 formation. It is a variant formation the play with three at the back which has seen success in Serie A in recent times, particularly with Napoli and Udinese.
Platini was right – Barcelona’s style should not be copied and if someone tries, it is unlikely to be nearly as successful. But if Enrique can figure out a system that suits his players and if, like he seemingly is, given time, then this Roma side could be very interesting to watch indeed.

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